Balloons generally conjure up images of celebrations—a birthday party, perhaps, or a graduation. But for the team at MGA Entertainment, they are now indelibly connected to months of intense research and development.
The California toyco’s new unboxing brand Na! Na! Na! Surprise features soft, articulated fashion dolls packaged inside balloons.
Kids pop multiple balloons (calling to mind the very specific evergreen joy of bubble wrap, as well as the fun associated with balloons in general) to also reveal an outfit, accessories, a “pom” that clips onto backpacks and purses, and a confetti surprise.
According to MGA CEO Isaac Larian, it took the team months to perfect the packaging.
“It’s the most difficult product we’ve ever worked on,” he says. “The balloons have to survive shipping, and the unsealing process is a challenge all in itself. We tried many, many approaches.”
That long process wasn’t a problem, though, as Larian says he was happy to dedicate as much time as necessary to create a seamless unboxing experience. MGA’s budget for research and development is flexible, which means the team can try a number of different methods in an effort to perfect a product.
While dolls discovered by removing elaborate wrapping may sound similar to MGA’s hit L.O.L. Surprise! range, Larian isn’t worried about overlap. Na! Na! Na! Surprise targets kids ages seven and up, which is an older demo than L.O.L.’s target of four to 14. (The older target demo, Larian says, is due to the more difficult unboxing experience, which requires kids to exert some dexterity to pop the balloons and remove the various items.)
The toys are also larger, articulated and plush. There are enough differentiators that the new line won’t eat into L.O.L. Surprise! sales, he says. “One does not cancel out the other. The market is vast, and if you have a great product you’ll capture market share.”
Available in the US through Walmart, Target and Amazon since December, Na! Na! Na! Surprise will be available globally by spring 2020. And work is well underway to move the brand into licensing, with apparel, shoes, bedding, stationery and costumes expected to be key categories for the property. A few partners are already on board, and some products should debut at Licensing Expo in May. There are also plans to eventually explore content. Following the smash success of L.O.L.
Surprise!, Larian says he wanted to be ready to take immediate advantage of Na! Na! Na! should it become the next hit unboxing brand.
Moving forward, as MGA continues to focus on developing innovative properties, Larian says the company will also work to become more environmentally responsible. Materials traditionally used to make balloons aren’t easily recycled, and in recent years MGA has seen success with unboxing brands, which are associated with significant packaging waste. But Larian says the industry as a whole needs to reevaluate all of its materials and processes.
“The big picture is that we make toys out of plastic,” he says. “I’m on a major crusade for sustainability within MGA, including using paper instead of plastic for packaging and [developing] a new biodegradable plastic that we’re experimenting with. These initiatives cost more, but the expense is worth it, and any journey starts with one step.”